Vince was well known as one to take long and luxurious baths. Often poorly timed, he would occupy the flat's lone bathroom for well over an hour. Doing what exactly, Howard could only imagine. Howard had, of course, taken baths before, but not in quite the same way as Vince took baths. Howard's experience with them had simply been a tub, soap, and the steadily decreasing temperature of the dirty water around him – none of which appealed to him in the slightest. Which is why, when he began to notice Vince's reoccurring habit, Howard's interest was immediately piqued. It was obvious Howard had been going about the whole thing entirely wrong. For when Vince was locked into the bathroom, there came from under the door the most fragrant aromas, warm mist, and the soft flickering light of what could only be a multitude of candles. Upon walking past, Howard could hear Vince humming in a low tone, and while he couldn't quite distinguish exactly what song it was, the melody alone was enough to send a small blush into Howard's cheeks as he hurriedly quickened his pace.
Howard's troubles really began on a sunny Friday morning. Naboo had been chastising Vince for his extended bathroom use for nearly fifteen minutes, and the argument seemed no closer to being finished.
"I had to go use the toilet in the café across the street! And they make you order something first, Vince. I had to pay £5.50 to take a piss!"
"It ain't my fault you got the bladder control of a three-year old!"
The both of them were clattering around the kitchen attempting to make breakfast at the same time, and were really only succeeding in making a mess. Naboo slammed a mug of hot water down in front of Howard, having forgotten to actually put the tea in it. Howard drank it anyway, not wanting to have the small shaman's fury directed at him. Vince was attempting to make eggs, but was doing so in the most cautious way possible so as to not soil his pink silk dressing gown. It was one of Howard's favorite pieces of clothing on Vince, the way the belt cinched it in at the waist and let the fabric drape delicately over his hips. Looking from the back, Howard thought often, you wouldn't know it to be a man, save for the hairy legs poking out from underneath.
Vince brought over two plates of dreadfully undercooked eggs to the table, one for himself and one for Howard. Amused, Howard watched him take a bite and try his best not to pull a disgusted face as he spat the eggs out into a napkin. There were still smears of dark makeup all around his eyes from the day before and his hair was in a state of disarray which had Howard imagining slightly indecent scenarios.
"All I'm saying," Naboo started up again, "Is that you could at least try to take shorter baths, alright?"
"Shorter baths, are you insane?!" Vince, now peeling a banana, gave an incredulous laugh.
"I don't see why you have to take so long." Howard finally spoke up, surprising the two with his sudden comment. "I mean... what do you even do in there anyways?"
Vince gave Howard a long glance, smiling slightly, the makeup remains making the stare almost... sinister. Finally breaking eye contact he took a bite out of the banana and, mouth full, said, "Why don't you come and find out sometime?"
Howard did his utmost best to keep his composure but was sure the burning in his face was giving him away. "I'll have no part in your sexual deviancies sir. Howard Moon is a respectable man. A clean and honest man who-"
Vince had burst out laughing, and Howard felt his face burn even hotter. "Aw, come off it Howard, I'm only teasing!"
"Oh. Erm... right." Desperately searching for something to distract him Howard picked up the mug of hot water and began to gulp it down, slightly scalding his tongue in the process. Naboo stood up from the table and left the room without saying a word.
Still giggling, Vince stood up as well and cleared away the plates of gooey untouched eggs. Coming back to lean over the back of a chair, Vince looked at Howard and said, "I am going out tonight though, so if you wanna take a bath or something I can leave my things out for you. They're really nice and relaxing, Howard, I think you'd like it. You certainly need it."
"Er, no. No thanks."
Vince chuckled and stood up to leave the room. "Whatever you say, Howard." He turned around, gave a wink, and was gone.
True to his word, come 8:00 Vince was nowhere to be found. Howard was sat on the couch, reading a book he was having increasing difficulty concentrating on. He kept re-reading the same sentence over and over again and by the tenth time he just gave up and closed the book. Vince's comments to him that morning were bouncing around in his head. Cheeky little tart, Howard thought. Of course Howard did want to take a nice bath, but he couldn't let Vince know about it. Vince would never let him live it down. Next he'd be dragged along to clubs in the middle of the night, fraternizing with vapid youths in insensible clothing. And Howard didn't need that. Still, the desire was there, and Howard began to think. Maybe, just maybe, if he could finish before Vince even got back, he would never have to know. No one would ever have to know but Howard.
Tiptoeing down the hall, Howard cracked the door to Naboo's room and peeked inside. Naboo and Bollo were both propped up in some chairs, not really moving. Howard thought that they were either asleep, in a trance, or - most likely – stoned out of their minds. Either way, they wouldn't be moving any time soon. Feeling more and more confident Howard made his way into Vince's room, and flicked on the lights. He had been in the room before, but only ever when Vince was there as well. This time he could feel his heart racing, as if he was in some way committing a burglary. The walls were plastered with posters of glam rock stars and electro musicians, strings of multicolored lights crisscrossing the ceiling. Every possible surface had been draped with a brightly patterned scarf or tapestry, and the bed seemed more like a nest of knitted blankets and fuzzy pillows. The closet door was wide open with clothes and shoes and accessories spilling out onto the floor.
Digging through a box in the corner of the room, Howard found a plethora of candles, and bottles upon bottles of jewel-toned liquids. He picked them all up in his arms and was about to exit the room when he spotted Vince's silk robe hanging on a hook by a full-length mirror. His heartbeat growing quicker, Howard dropped all of the bath time items onto the bed and frantically stripped down to his underwear. Cautiously approaching the mirror, Howard took a look at his reflection. He felt out of place in the room around him, with his broad body and moustache, quite unlike the slim and makeuped men in all the posters. Quite unlike Vince.
Howard grabbed the robe and as the cool fabric slid over his skin he saw exactly why Vince wore it all the time. It was light and flowing and such a contrast to the thick heavy fabrics Howard was accustomed to. It was as if he was wearing champagne. The silhouette the robe afforded him was not as flattering as Vince's, but Howard was beginning to realize why Vince surrounded himself in luxury – it made him feel good, and, in doing so, made him look good. The robe was not able to close all the way across Howard's chest, but the belt brought attention to his waist and he was surprised it was even there. Howard had never given much thought as to how clothing looked on him, but now found himself staring at his reflection in awe. After a minute or two he remembered his mission and scurried out of the room, scooping up the candles and such on his way.
Now sitting on the side of the tub, door locked and candles lit, Howard was examining the labels on each bottle, trying to figure out which ones to use. There were oils and gels and lotions and creams and perfumes and salts and god knows what else and Howard was stymied at the selection before him. He finally decided to only use the ones that had the word 'bath' in the name, and set the rest aside. Left with three bottles – a nectarine and honey bath oil, green tea bath salts, and a lavender bubble bath – Howard took off Vince's robe and his underpants, and began to run the water.
As he straddled the side of the tub, one foot in to judge the temperature, Howard thought about how the ancient Romans used to make a great deal out of going to the bath houses, which were always beautifully decorated and luxurious, and maybe this whole thing wasn't all that different. Putting the plug in the drain, Howard picked up the bubble bath and searched the label for how much you were supposed to put in. It didn't say and Howard wasn't really sure. He uncapped the bottle to take a smell and a strong wave of lavender assaulted his nostrils making him cough, and he dropped the whole bottle into the fast-filling tub. Almost immediately a froth of bubbles began to appear and grow much more quickly than Howard expected. The bottle had disappeared into a rising mountain of foam and by the time Howard had fished it out, all its contents had been emptied. The bubbles were starting to spill over the edge of the tub and engulf Howard. He was panicking now, and after he leaned over to finally turn the now steaming water off, he attempted to stand up. But the bubble bath had made the inside of the tub very slick, and Howard's foot slipped right out from under him and sent the man tumbling into the tub of bubbles which a mighty splash, where he promptly disappeared.
Vince climbed the stairs to the flat slowly and with heavy feet. It had not been his night. First, all but one of his mates cancelled on him, then the heel to his boot broke off while he was dancing, and then he got a whole tray of drinks spilled on him. He smelled overwhelmingly of alcohol and his clothes were soaked and quite sticky, and in the end he had decided to call it an early night. Now as he made his way into his room, he found the lights on, his robe missing, and Howard's clothes all over the floor. Laughing quite loudly, Vince made his way to the bathroom and knocked on the door.
"Alright, Howard? You havin' fun in there?"
"No!" came Howard's panicked voice from inside. "I mean, yes, I – I'm fine! Go away!"
Vince smiled widely and said, "Did I catch you in the middle of a wank or something?"
"I'm not – GO AWAY!" And Vince was about to when he noticed an ooze of bubbles coming from underneath the door.
"Howard? You sure you're alright? There's bubbles leaking out into the hallway." Vince tried the doorknob, but it wouldn't budge. "Why's the door locked?"
"I mean it, Vince go away!"
"Howard, what's wrong? Let me in!" Vince began running his hand along the top of the doorframe where he knew they kept a spare key.
"I... I can't let you in."
"Why not? Howard, I'm coming in." Vince found the small the key and shoved it into the lock.
"Vince, wait! NO-!"
Vince swung the door open and was met with a solid wall of floor-to-ceiling bubbles. Without the door for support they began to fall forward and quickly enveloped Vince into a world of bubbly whiteness. He had buckled over with intense laughter, and was doing his best to clear his eyes of both bubbles and tears.
"Howard, what on earth have you done?" Vince stood up but realized he had no idea where anything was. The bubbles were so thick they had filled the entire room. "And where on earth are you?" The bathroom was not a large one, but it was extremely disorienting to Vince to only see bubbles surrounding him. He put his arms in front of him and began sweeping the thick foam out of the way.
"I just... wanted to take a bath." Howard's voice sounded extremely embarrassed, and it made Vince want to find him all the sooner.
"Well, just hold on a sec, Howard, let me find where you are and then we can talk about tHIS-!" Vince had reached the bathtub, slamming his leg into the side of it and promptly falling in. He landed rather ungracefully on top of Howard, and, if he hadn't been completely soaked by the drinks, he was now drenched in bath water. Vince moved to push his wet hair out of his eyes and finally saw Howard, whose face was as bright red as Vince's favorite lipstick.
"What're you doing in here, you bumberclark?" Howard didn't say anything and simply looked down at his bare chest. Bubbles were clinging to every hair on him, chest or otherwise, and Vince couldn't help but laugh. "You look like Father Christmas." Vince tried to shift his position in the tub. He was leaned up against the wall, legs dangling over the edge, sitting in Howard's lap. As he moved, he noticed Howard's expression become even more panicked and embarrassed, and Vince fully realized that he was sitting on top of a very naked Howard. Perhaps it was the couple of drinks he had consumed earlier in the evening, but Vince broke out into a fit of unstoppable giggles. He put his arm around Howard's shoulder to stop himself from sinking any lower into the water as he continued to laugh and laugh and laugh. Howard put his own arm under Vince's knees to help. As Vince's laughter subsided he caught Howard's eyes and smiled warmly. "You gonna say anything?"
"I... It's not that funny." But Howard's moustache twitched at the corners and Vince knew he was close to a smile.
"Aw come on, Howard, it's hilarious." Suddenly a thought popped into Vince's head, and a sly grin came to his face. "Were you wearing my dressing gown?"
A new blush appeared in Howard's cheeks. "Yeah, it er... italwayslooksreallyniceonyou." The last couple of words tumbled out of Howard's mouth, but Vince caught their meaning and leaned his head down to rest on Howard's bubble-coated chest. Howard wrapped his arms around Vince and held the little man close. The foam fizzed all around them as one by one the tiny bubbles began to pop.
"How's about next time I show you the proper way to do all this, alright?" Howard hummed an affirmative. Vince raised his head and looked up into Howard's eyes. "You're ridiculous," he said quietly, and placed a gentle kiss onto Howard's lips.
From outside of the bathroom they heard shuffling footsteps coming down the hall. Suddenly, the footsteps stopped.
"I AM NOT CLEANING THIS UP!" Came Naboo's angry voice, and the sound of now louder footsteps stomping away.